Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) Lays Out A 2020 Presidential Marker

 

Democrats have been invigorated in their opposition to President Donald Trump’s agenda and cabinet nominations in the wake of Saturday’s Women’s Marches around the country. Many activists however are angry that that energy isn’t always translating into votes against Trump appointees in the Senate.

But none of it has earned them many points with a fast-growing liberal protest movement that is asking Democratic senators to wage a blockade on nominees they have deemed unacceptable.

“They need to do anything they can to defeat or select the seating of Senator Sessions, Mr. Tillerson and Mr. Price,” said Maggie Godbold, 62, a retiree and Democratic activist from Fairfax County, Va., who helped organize the protest at Warner’s office, one of 200 across the country Tuesday. “They’re unqualified.”

The senators, however, appear unwilling to do what their base is asking. On Tuesday, the full Senate voted 96 to 4 to confirm Nikki Haley, Trump’s nominee to be ambassador to the United Nations. Earlier in the day, they voted Haley and three other nominees out of committee – Ben Carson to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development; Wilbur Ross to serve as commerce secretary; and Elaine Chao to lead the Transportation Department. That followed full Senate votes for Pompeo on Monday and for Defense Secretary James Mattis and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly on Friday.

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) a leading light of the Democrat’s left wing took to Facebook to defend her vote to confirm Dr. Ben Carson as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

I understand that some people might have made the call differently. I appreciate your making your thoughts heard. Unlike the new Administration, I don’t believe in ignoring or silencing people who disagree with the choices I make or the votes I take.

We’ve got a lot of nominees to consider, and a lot of places where we need to turn up the heat under the Senate Republicans. (Yes, Betsy DeVos, I’m looking at you. And Pruitt, Mnuchin, Puzder, Price, Tillerson – it’s a long list.) Either way, we need all of us in this fight. Your voices are powerfully important, and I hope you’ll keep speaking up for what you believe in.

One Democratic Senator, New York’s Kirsten Gillibrand has only voted in favor of one nominee so far (Nikki Haley as US Ambassador to the United Nations). A tweet touting Gillibrand’s opposition (sent prior to the Haley vote) went viral.

How committed has she been in opposition to Trump’s nominees? Gillibrand was the lone vote against the waiver allowing retired Marine Corps General James Mattis to serve as Secretary of Defense and his ultimate confirmation to that position.

There’s been considerable speculation that Gillibrand is setting herself up for a 2020 run and there’s no doubt that her near total blockade against Trump nominations will play well with her party’s liberal base.

Should Gillibrand run for President as the leader of the liberal base (a slot she may find herself in competition for with fellow New Yorker Governor Andrew Cuomo) it will complete a remarkable transformation for the Senator who began her career representing a rural upstate New York district in Congress. At the time she ran as a moderate Democrat who supported gun rights. She won her House seat in no small part because the incumbent Republican was found to have to been involved in a domestic violence incident shorty before the election. She began moving left once she was appointed to the Senate to replace Hillary Clinton, who left the seat to become Secretary of State. Gillibrand was named to that seat (which she’s held through a special election for the remainder of the term and reelected overwhelmingly in her own right) by then Governor David Patterson who was elevated to that position when then Governor Eliot Spitzer resigned in the wake of a prostitution scandal. Political moments often have interesting backstories but Gillibrand’s rise would certainly be one of the more interesting.

It’s not a clear shot to the nomination for her by any stretch. New Jersey Democratic Cory Booker took the unprecedented step of testifying in committee against a fellow sitting Senator’s confirmation (Jeff Sessions of Alabama to be Attorney General), but Gillibrand is clearly staking a claim no other Democratic contender from the Senate can in terms of opposing Trump’s appointees.

We are less than a week into the Trump administration, and the battle lines to replace him are already being drawn.